Monday, November 26, 2012

Avoid boring people

Anna-Maria De Mars has some good advice for judo players that is equally applicable to science. What she is saying is, in short: Work harder than the competition, and work with people who are better than you are. Actually, the latter of these was originally advice for scientists from James D. Watson. He wrote a whole book on the subject:
Avoid boring people: Lessons from a life in science. 
Being a sucker for books I bought it immediately. So, thank you Anna-Maria for pointing it out to me (albeit indirectly). The best thing about it is the double-meaning title. Behind this is an autobiography, which is interesting in many ways, but today's subject is the Remembered Lessons at the end of each chapter. There is some very important survival advice there, like:
"Avoid fighting bigger boys or dogs."
 And some advice that will be good for your development no matter what you do:
"Seek out bright as opposed to popular friends." This is really what Anna-Maria was quoting although from a different article as: "Never be the smartest person in the room," which sounds better but not as good as the book-title.
Then, there is some advice for young scientists like:
"Choose a young thesis adviser" that I obviously think all bright young prospects should do now, but which I did not follow myself and do not think I should have.
Or, the more cumbersome:
"Extend yourself intellectually through courses that initially frighten you," which is really good advice, and, like for Watson himself, mostly means study more mathematics and statistics.
"Keep your intellectual curiosity much broader than your thesis objective." This is also one of my own goals, and a recurring suggestion for my students. To some degree it comes naturally to medical students, since they have to be able to handle a variety of patients. However, they (MDs) often have to be induced to read more widely from theoretical literature, while students with basic science degrees have to be motivated to read some clinical medicine as well (and everyone has to be forced and whipped to study more mathematics and statistics). 
The autobiographical part is also interesting. James Watson describes how he was very focused on forwarding his career, and not spending time on things (courses, projects, etc) that would not be of direct use for his research or advancement in science. Anyway, that was it for now. I am going to follow his advice to:
"Work on Sundays."

No comments:

Post a Comment